How to froth and steam milk

Victoria Woodward

UK

When you’re making authentic coffee drinks, you need to master the art of preparing the milk. Isn’t hot milk just hot milk? No. There’s a subtle difference between how to froth milk and how to steam milk for perfect cappuccinos, lattes and more.

Aerating and texturing milk for coffee

You can use the handy steam wand on your espresso machine to create heated milk of just the right consistency. This makes it look, taste and feel much better to drink. By following the steps below, you can get exactly the results you want.

How to froth milk for a cappuccino

The irresistible froth on a cappuccino is achieved by creating a thick ‘microfoam’ with the steam wand on an espresso machine. Here’s how:
1.  Start with cold milk and a cold pitcher (jug)
2.  Purge your steam wand to get rid of any residual water or buildup
3.  Fill the pitcher to 1cm below the start of the spout
4.  Submerge the tip of the steam wand just below the surface of the milk and froth until the milk almost doubles in volume. This step is called “aerating” or “stretching”.
5.  Make sure the tip of the wand is near the surface of the milk, because it needs to draw air from the milk’s surface to produce the froth.
6.  Once the milk has doubled in volume, lower the steam wand into the milk, tilting the pitcher to obtain a vortex in the milk, until the pitcher is almost too hot to hold. This step is called “texturing”.
7.  Gently swirl the milk in the pitcher and tap against the counter to release any bubbles
8.  Your frothed milk is ready
9.  Remember to purge and clean the steam wand once you’ve finished.

How to steam milk for a latte

The satisfying hot milk that makes up the body of the latte is achieved by heating milk with the steam wand on an espresso machine. Here’s how to do that:  
1.  Start with cold milk and a cold pitcher (jug)
2.  Purge your steam wand to get rid of any residual water or buildup
3.  Fill the pitcher with milk up to the start of the spout
4.  Submerge the tip of the steam wand below the surface of the milk and froth until the pitcher feels warm
5.  Once you reach this point, lower the steam wand into the milk, tilting the pitcher to obtain a vortex in the milk, until the pitcher is almost too hot to hold
6.  The result is steamed milk with a little bit of foam
7.  Remember to purge and clean the steam wand once done.

Explore the espresso machine >

Tip: You can feel the temperature of your milk when it’s in a stainless steel jug. Hold it in your hand and heat until it’s almost too hot to handle. 

What’s the difference between frothing and steaming milk?

Both frothing and steaming involves heating milk with a steam wand. But there’s a subtle difference. Frothing is done near the surface to create velvety ‘microbubbles’ and pump up the volume. For steaming, the wand is submerged deeper to heat the milk with only a thin layer of foam appearing on top. 

Milk frothing tips 

Frothing milk

Here are some milk frothing tips to achieve a gorgeous texture and flavour:

•  Cold milk is easier to froth, so keep the milk and pitcher cold before use
•  If the milk goes over 65°C it will burn and taste bad
•  Semi-skimmed milk can foam too easily, while whole milk is dense
•  Leave plenty of room in the jug for the milk to expand
•  Purge the steam wand before and after use
•  A continuous swirling motion creates more even bubbles.

Vegan? The best milk for frothing if you’re non dairy 

Dairy milk doens't have to be part of your coffee experience. Plant-based milks can also foam well – oat, almond, soy, hemp and coconut all give you rich, creamy results. 

Many non-dairy brands now sell a ‘barista’ version of their vegan milks, specially created to prevent splitting and curdling, giving you the best froth. 

Many say that plant milks bring out different flavours in your coffee, so why not give them a try? 

The authentic espresso experience 

Treat yourself to a coffee house experience every day at home with an espresso machine from KitchenAid. Designed as a real showpiece, our espresso machine has dual smart temperature sensors, which maintain the ideal temperature throughout the brewing process for a beautiful taste. 

It also has a 15-bar Italian pump to deliver enough pressure for an authentic espresso with a rich crema on top. That means you serve up professional-quality results easily — and take all the glory.

Go to the espresso machine >

Latte art like a champion 

Wondering how to make latte art? By carefully pouring silky, well-textured milk from the jug on to a freshly prepared espresso to create different patterns. This is called ‘free-pouring’ and it takes practice — which is why there are latte art championships for baristas to show off their skills. You often see the leaf or rosetta effect poured on to the coffee, as well as the swan and the heart. What’s not to love about that?

Latte art

Stencil-sprinkled art on your coffee

Once you know how to froth milk, why not decorate your drink with a light dusting of chocolate, nutmeg or cinnamon? You just need a cocoa shaker and chosen stencil design, like coffee beans, a smiley face or stars. 

Businesses often have a stencil of their logo or icon. With personalised stencils being so simple to order or make, which will be your signature style?

"Bread without butter and coffee without milk is an awful calamity."

John Muir
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